Chapter 13 : Occupational Callings
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As Harry looked said goodbye to his friends and collapsed into the overstuffed chair in the front sitting room, he was amazed to realize that he was feeling happier than he had felt in a long time. After the surprise in the library where he had come across the Black family tree he had become so distracted that he feared he wouldn’t be able to enjoy the rest of the night. However, by the time Kreacher had served them dinner amongst the flowering greenery of the conservatory and as he listened with humor to the recounting of Hermione & Ron’s trip to Australia, he was pleased to realize that he had nearly forgotten about his discovery all together. Now that he had the time to sit and think about it all, he wasn’t really sure why he had been so shocked by the tapestry at all. He knew that nearly all pure-bloods still around now-a-days had to be related in some way, so it just made sense that she was so closely connected to Sirius. It was nice even, to find another pure-blood descendant that wasn’t completely consumed by the idea of their superiority to other wizards with “lesser quality” blood statuses.
He had been somewhat distressed to have heard about the struggles Alexis had faces as a child at the hands of her own mother. While he had only ever met two squibs in his young life, he hadn’t ever considered that they would be thought of as such social outcasts in the wizarding world and worse yet as objects of shame by their own families. While it was obvious that Alexis was indeed a very talented witch he shuddered at the thought of her having to slink around at the edges of wizarding society as an unwanted exile. It was such an unpleasant thought to him that he hurried to push it from his mind before it ruined his pleasant mood.
He though instead of how happy he had been to see Ginny again. He had been terrified that she would harbor feelings of resentment towards him not only because of Fred’s death, but also for him disappearing for nearly a year. It had been such a relief to finally be able to explain to her what he had been doing and be able to talk with someone about everything that had happened. While he hadn’t had too much time alone with her, the thought that he could now take as much time as he wanted with her was most inspiring. He realized that he wanted to just take things slow with her so that he could savor every blissful moment.
Lost in his own thoughts, Harry almost failed to notice that he was no longer alone in the room. When the silence was broken by a deep commanding voice speaking his name he was so startled that he almost fell out of his seat.
Minister Shacklebolt laughed and apologized as Harry stood and shook his hand.
“It is good to see you, Harry. I am told that you are enjoying your new home?”
Harry nodded enthusiastically. “It is great here. Congratulations on becoming Minister of Magic, sir.”
“Temporary Minister of Magic,” Shacklebolt corrected. “There will be a proper election next month to elect someone properly to the position. I’m not sure that I am ready to take on the position permanently.”
“I have a feeling that you aren’t going to have much of a choice after the election results come in. Everyone loves you and there isn’t anyone else that can get things on track like you can,” Harry said confidently.
“Heh. Thanks,” the minister replied. “Speaking of getting things on track, I have just finished meeting with Severus and Minerva and they have informed me that you had your sights set on becoming an Auror.”
Harry shrugged and immediately felt his good mood dissolving away. It had seemed like almost a lifetime ago when he had met with Professor McGonagall and discussed his career ambitions. He had since given up those dreams after skipping out of school the previous year to hunt down the horcruxes.
“Is something wrong, Harry?” Shacklebolt asked with concern.
“No sir. I just know that I blew my chances at becoming an auror since I wasn’t able to take my N.E.W.T.s this year, that’s all,” he mumbled quietly.
“Which is precisely one of the primary things that was discussed, thanks to Severus. He brought your situation to my attention and now thanks to him and the combined efforts of the rest of the Hogwart’s staff, I believe we have come to an acceptable resolution to that little issue,” he said with a sly smile.
Harry was confused. “What do you mean, sir?’
“Well, I completely understand that you and your friends had other priorities last year that interfered with your academic ambitions. So…I have decided to allow a waiver of the N.E.W.T. requirement for the Auror program for any student that participated in the fight at Hogwarts. I will be asking for recommendation letters from your professors in lieu of the testing requirements, but that will be nothing more than a formality in case of backlash from the rest of the wizarding comunity,” he explained.
“Are you serious?? You would do that? Why? I thought the auror program was the hardest one to get into,” Harry spluttered.
Shacklebolt sighed. “To be perfectly honest, Harry, the auror department is in trouble. With me tied up with ministry duties and Dawlish on his way to Azkaban there aren’t many people left to keep up with all of the many calls still coming in daily. There are still several death eaters out there that took off in the craziness of the battle after you took out Voldemort. We are trying to keep an eye out for them, but there is so much else that still needs to be done. We’ve called some people back from retirement to help out and we are still overwhelmed,” he said in a defeated voice. “So you see, you’d probably be helping me out more so than I’d be helping you.”
Harry grinned. “Yes!! Of course I’m interested. I’m pretty sure that Ron would be too.”
“Excellent. You might want to also contact the Longbottom boy. Severus mentioned him as a prospective recruit as well,” Shacklebolt suggested.
“Snape suggested Neville? Really?” Harry asked. He had been pretty sure that Snape thought that Neville was a hopeless dimwit. There was no way that he would have suggested having Neville becoming an auror.
“Oh yes. Severus said that he had shown incredible potential throughout the school year and the battle. It was he that defeated Voldemort’s snake right?” Harry nodded. “Well then. It’s settled. Now, some of your teachers have offered to help us out getting you all trained up since we will sadly not have the extra hands to do so ourselves. I will be providing a curriculum to them and they will work out the schedule for training. I must warn you, though,” he continued with a serious expression, “the training will be vigorous. That much cannot change. So you all must still expect to have to work harder than you have ever worked in your lives.”
“Of course, sir. Thank you so much. I can’t wait to tell Ron!” Harry proclaimed happily.
Shacklebolt laughed heartily. “Very good. You enjoy the rest of your evening and I shall look forward to hearing about your progress.”
Harry waited until he walked away and he heard the front door shut before he turned and ran down the hall in a hurry to get to his room. He wanted to send Ron an owl right away to tell him the great news.
As he rounded the corner leading into the mall hall he was so preoccupied thinking about writing his letter that he ran straight into a very startled Snape who had been standing in the hallway talking with Professor McGonagall, and was knocked onto the floor by the impact.
“My goodness Mr. Potter, what is the rush?” McGonagall exclaimed.
Harry looked up sheepishly and grinned at the pair of them. “Uh…Sorry. I was in a hurry.”
“That was obvious,” Snape muttered said as he extended his hand to help Harry to his feet.
"Well, it is obvious that you are doing well here with Alexis,” McGonagall said in an amused tone.
“Oh yes, Professor. I like it here a lot much better than having to stay with the Dursleys,” he replied enthusiastically.
“And yet you keep yourself just as locked away here as you often had been there,” Snape said snidely.
Harry gaped at him. It’s true that he hadn’t ventured out of the house much since the day at Diagon Alley when he had been mobbed by Goblins and excited shoppers, but that was just because he had been enjoying the peace and quiet here at the manor. Even as he tried to form the words to refute this claim he knew that it was a pretty lame excuse. He had been trying to hide from the world here at the manor. He didn’t feel ready yet to tackle another anxious crowd of admirers just yet.
Professor McGonagall glanced back and forth at the two of them in confusion and then said, “I’m not sure what that is about, but I think we have some news that may be of some interest to you. We just met with Minister Shacklebolt and—“
“I actually just ran into him myself Professor. He told me about the Auror internship,” Harry interrupted.
“Oh. Well then. Professor Snape and I will be working to get a schedule together and you should be getting an owl from us soon. I think the general idea right now is that all of the training will need to be held at Hogwart’s to minimize the disruptions of the increased workload on the professors that will be helping out with the training. This will most likely mean that you will be staying at the castle for the duration of the training. But we are still working out the logistics of it all,” she finished tiredly.
“The physical training will be starting before the school year, which will mean that we will need to get the ministry paperwork, health screenings and clearances finished soon. I will be going to the ministry next week to take care of some things. I will escort you and your fellow trainees through the paperwork and clearance processes at that time,” Snape said.
“We will be sending out notifications to your fellow classmates that we feel are qualified to participate in the program immediately. This is a very rare opportunity that you are being given so I would advise you to take it seriously and be ready to work harder than you have ever worked before. Don’t be thinking that you will be able to skate through just because of whom you are and what you have done,” McGonagall warned.
Harry nodded. “Yes, ma’m. I understand.”
“Excuse me,” Trixie the house elf interrupted. “Mistress asked me to tells you that dessert is now served.”
“Thank you,” McGonagall said with a smile. “Would you care to join us Harry?”
"Uh. No thank you. I already ate. I actually think I am going to head up to bed,” he replied.
She smiled and both she and Snape turned to walk back to the dining room.
Harry watched them walk away and just as they both disappeared into the room he called out, “Sir?”
Snape turned and looked at him with a raised eyebrow.
“Thank you,” he said shakily. “Kingsley told me that you talked with him and are largely responsible for this Auror thing happening. I do appreciate it, sir.”
Snape sneered as if he was going to spit out one of his caustic remarks, but then he paused and the sour expression melted off his face. “Just don’t make me regret it,” he mumbled. “And be ready to work for it.”
Without waiting for a response Snape spun around and walked into the dining hall closed the door behind him leaving Harry staring after him wondering, not for the first time if he would ever become accustomed to this new version of the man that had once hated him so fiercely.
By the time everyone had left the manor it was nearly midnight. Alexis retired to her room, but she wasn’t feeling the slightest bit tired. So much had been discussed throughout the night that she couldn’t seem to get her brain to settle down.
The Hogwart’s staff had pretty much decided to attempt to just forget that the previous year even happened. They were going to have the students repeat the year that they had attended under Voldemort’s control of the school thus allowing the muggle-borns who were not permitted to attend to remain on the same level as their classmates. Of course the issue was brought up about what to do with the students who already learned the material covered in the previous year, and it was agreed that the curriculum could be altered some to make accommodations for any students that had already learned the covered materials. It was not the ideal situation, but many of the teachers agreed that they had been forced under the new “rules” brought forth under Voldemort’s reign to drastically change the topics taught to the students. There were very few professors that seemed to be particularly worried about having to reteach materials.
The biggest obstacle that had to be discussed was the first year students. Since they were having the students re-take their first year, how would they handle the incoming first year students? It was decided that they would simply have to have a larger than usual first year class. Many of the classrooms should be able to accommodate a larger class but others would either have to be split up into separate classes or else moved to larger classrooms that would hold more students. Everyone agreed that the next few years at Hogwarts were going to be quite chaotic, but that this was the necessary steps to take in order to assure that all of the students get the magical education that they deserve.
For the most part these changes and revisions to the school curriculum had very little effect on Alexis and the job that she would be required to do. She would be singlehandedly responsible for the heath of every one of those students. She remembered from her years at the school the numerous classroom accidents that she had witnessed. Things like cauldron explosions caused by misbrewed potions, grotesque transfiguration accidents and various bites and stings from exotic creatures were just the beginning of things that she will have to be able to handle. It would be the first time in her career that she would have no colleagues to confer with or consult about cases. Everything would be completely up to her and she was really starting to get nervous.
Alexis took several deep breaths and began trying to calm down her frazzled nerves. She knew that she was a very skilled healer and she had never before had any reason to doubt herself. She had been trained by some of the very best healers in the world and had never had any complaints or incidents against her throughout her entire career.
Sadly none of these reassurances were able to help ease her anxieties. She felt as though there was a whole lot more riding on this job than any other position she had held. She was back in the world where she had initially been rejected thanks to her own parents and she was feeling as if she needed to work harder than everyone to prove that she was competent.
She sighed deeply, crawled deeper under her covers and tried to put her fears out of her mind. Within minutes she was asleep and the nightmare began. She was standing in the Hogwart’s sick bay that was overcrowded with students complaining of ailments and injuries that Alexis had never seen or heard of before. She kept trying to treat them but was only managing to make their conditions worse. More and more students came into the room until Alexis was unable to move through the crowd. She felt herself begin to cry a literal river of tears that began pooling on the floor. The tears she cried began to flood the room and was soon threatening to drown the sick and wounded children. Unfortunately this only caused her to cry harder until the salty tears were up to her throat. Just before she was completely consumed under the ocean of her own tears she heard the sinister laugh. She caught a glimpse of the source of the laughter as her head was finally submerged.
Alexis woke up with a small scream as she gasped for breath. She struggled to compose herself but found that she could not get the image of those dark piercing eyes or the sound of his taunting laughter from her mind. She did not know why, but somehow she knew at that moment that the person she most felt would be watching her and expecting her to fail, was the very man that she had helped nurse back to health and whom had already been responsible her loss of sleep over the course of many troubling years.
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